Holding a hand

Pastoral Messages | August 10, 2017

Some of the most beautiful transactions in the world occur without money ever changing hands. We all know this since we’re regular participants in such transactions. I find it inspiring to remember the particulars of different encounters, if for no other reason than to give God thanks for refusing to let money be a part of everything.

I inched the door open to room 214 over at the hospice house the other night. That’s what you do when you’re a guest in the company of someone dying. You tiptoe in lightly. In my case, I moved with a gentleness that I don’t practice enough in other parts of the day. The hour was late, so I expected my own quiet time with Mary. With no children to her name, and her nearest relative two miles away and in bed at this hour, I knew I’d have the big blue eyes of this sweet 91-year-old to myself. I’d retell a few precious moments of her past, hoping that they might penetrate the fog of her lost memory. I’d pray, as the Spirit would move. I’d sing a hymn or two softly, something I reserve for the dying.

There was someone else beside the bed, however, seated there and holding Mary’s hand. I realized this was going to be a shared visit. Dawn introduced herself by name. “I’m a volunteer here,” she said. “I’ve been sitting with Mary to see if we can calm her down a bit. Come on in. And who are you?” We began to visit. As Mary went through long periods of apnea where there was no breathing, only to suddenly release loud and frightening outbursts, as if desperate to escape a captivity, or cross a goal line within reach – through all of this, it was apparent why Dawn’s presence was so valuable.

I kept thinking to myself: “Dawn is a volunteer. It’s 9:15 p.m. She doesn’t know this woman. Mary is a complete stranger to her except for the fact that Mary falls within Dawn’s larger commitment that signs her on to helping people die in peace. Is this beautiful or what?!”

I left after ten minutes, but Dawn stayed. That’s what she wanted to do. Nobody is paying her for these late night hours of love. The few family members who would appear in the morning have no idea that Dawn was there the night before. But such is the gift of love and service.

“We are the people of God’s pasture and the sheep of God’s hand,” the psalmist writes. Dawn let Mary know that truth of that psalmist the other night, not with words but with the clasp of her own hands. Mary died a day later, free from her body that momentarily held her hostage, but blessed by this dear woman who sat beside her in love.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

15 Comments on “Holding a hand”

  • John Gosma

    August 17, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you, Peter, for visiting Mary in the final hours of her beautiful life. She was a lovely woman with deep faith. She will be sorely missed by many, including my family.

  • Bud and Dottie House

    August 14, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Mary was always near and dear to Bud and I and to our three girls.
    She was a wonderful sister and we were proud to call her our big
    sister. She will be sadly missed but we are blessed to have two
    Angel Mary’s in Heaven now. Thank you to both you, Dawn and
    Pastor Marty for your kind words. Bless you.

  • Bud and Dottie House

    August 14, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Just read a beautiful tribute to our sister, Mary
    She has always been near and dear to us. She loved our girls
    as her own. Thank you to both you Dawn and Pastor Marty for
    your kind words. We now have two Angels called Mary in Heaven.
    May God bless you both.

  • Kathy House Kvinge

    August 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Over many years, Aunt Mary would often send us books or messages written by Pastor Marty. She received so much joy and encouragement from the ways his writing touched her life. God places people in each our lives at just the right moment. To know her send off to heaven was shared by Dawn and Pastor Marty, is God’s gift to us who loved her!

  • Anne House Afdahl

    August 14, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Oh my… such a beautiful story of “attending angels”–Dawn, Pastor Marty, and others who were with my Aunt Mary as she walked into Heaven August 4.
    Her life and faith blessed so many, and she was quiet and humble about it.

  • Jerry Zavitz

    August 11, 2017 at 10:58 am

    /what a wonderful story. It is so important that people realize to volunteer is to help the dying as well as the living. “Nurse Mary was quite a woman.

  • Amy Jordan

    August 11, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Thank you for sharing. Made me smile. Being with my mom while she passed away brought Mollie and I comfort knowing she wasn’t alone in her last minutes of life. I would certainly volunteer for such a roll as that in a hospice house.

  • Pam Marolla

    August 10, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you pastor. I am a pastor and my hubby is a hospice chaplain in Galesburg. Comforting to know you are a neighbor

  • Bill Baltimore

    August 10, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Mary was a wonderful lady and I always looked forward to seeing her and Harold at church. I will miss her smiling face and personality.

  • Heather Gosma

    August 10, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Mary was one of my dearest and sweetest friends . Our daughters treasured her! I found great comfort in your sharing your last visit with her. She was a cherished blessing!

  • Heather Gosma

    August 10, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Mary was a sweet angel to me personally and also to our entire family. It gives me great comfort to read of your last visit with her . You blessed her as she blessed so many of us in her years with us!

  • David DeWit

    August 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    You were there too, Pastor. Thanks for taking the time to be with her.

  • Caroline England

    August 10, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    We had arranged for Barb Kuttler to sing at my husband’s funeral. However, she would be out of the country. The day of his death Barb came to the Kahl Home and sang Lloyd’s favorite song even though he was not conscious. It not only meant so much to my daughter and I but to all of the nurses on that floor who all gathered . Dawn is an angel.

  • Barb Kuttler

    August 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    People who serve in such fashion help me believe God really does love us enough to call us his children, and gave us his son to accomplish the adoption. Thanks, Peter.

  • Jim Case

    August 10, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing Peter. I have often prayed for the strength to be that Dawn at the time when needed most.

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